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Israel TransportCatching a Bus in Israel & Bus Etiquette

Catching a Bus in Israel & Bus Etiquette

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Last Updated on November 14, 2021

If you’re going to be catching a bus in Israel here is some good-to-know bus etiquette.

Hebrew: שירותי אוטובוסים

queuing for a bus

Using the bus service in Israel can be daunting for newcomers and the inexperienced.  The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics’ last report in  2010 showed that 68 per cent of households in Israel own at least one car.   According to an in-house vehicle survey we did in 2015, about 70 per cent of the Anglo community in Israel also own at least one car.  That means around 30 per cent of the population are reliant on Israel’s public transport and use the bus service regularly.

You will often hear a newcomer relating his experiences on Israel’s public transport system. Desperate and frustrated by what he has to endure, he turns to the vatikim (veteran immigrants) for advice.

Orderly lines of people, waiting patiently for a bus, smiling passengers thanking the bus driver and wishing him a pleasant day are now just fond memories of the old country and the life you left behind.

After 6 months in Israel Jonathan B., a student from Boston, living in Jerusalem, shared his 20 tips to catching a bus in Israel
  1. Most bus drivers speak English.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  2. The seats behind the bus driver are reserved for the elderly and infirm.  Respect that regulation [Update: now also single seats further back].
  3. People in Israel stand up for pregnant women.
  4. For the most part, teenagers do not stand up or give their seats to adults.
  5. To hail a bus,  you need to put out  your forefinger and point it to the ground.  If you don’t do this, the bus driver will think you are just standing and counting the number of white Subarus on the road, and he’ll drive right by.
  6. Enter the bus at the door nearest the driver, at the front and exit via the rear door.  Don’t even think about doing it any other way or you’ll have 54 irate passengers shouting and gesticulating at you. [since publishing this article, this has also changed – you can enter the bus from the front or back door].
  7. Israelis do not stand in orderly queues or lines at bus stops.  When the bus driver opens the doors, Israelis make a mad rush to get on the bus.  Don’t be offended if people walk on ahead of you, push you or bump into you. In Israel it is first-come first-served.
  8. Don’t expect the bus driver to have change for your 100 shekel or 200 shekel note at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. [Update: tickets can no longer be purchased from the bus driver – you must pre-purchase using a RavKav]
  9. When the bus is overload with passengers the driver will shout out in Hebrew “Tikansu Pnima” – move further in.  You are then expected, while tightly hugging the parcels between your feet, to shuffle a few steps further toward the back of the bus.
  10. The bus driver will only stop and let you off the bus if you ring the bell. The bell is located on the pole adjacent to your seat.  If you get up, walk toward the exit, and wait for the bus to stop and let you out, you will wait forever.
  11. The bus driver is not allowed to let you on or off the bus anywhere other than at a designated bus stop. If you obeyed the rules and rang the bell and he absentmindedly missed your stop, call out to him.  Shout out in a confident and assertive tone “Nehag, Nehag, Ta’atzor” – driver, driver, stop!  He will grunt, mumble under his breath, try to shift the blame onto you and then reluctantly stop the bus and let you off.
  12. Chatting with a complete stranger sitting next to you is not uncommon and you could get some useful life-management tips if you do.  Don’t be surprised if the person you are chatting with starts asking you all kinds of personal questions and dishes out free advice. Don’t be alarmed if they ask what your monthly rental is, how much you earn or  comment on the current political situation.  Take it easy, don’t get offended or become defensive –  you don’t have to share your true feelings. Agreeing is best.
  13. Don’t be shy to strike up a conversation with a cute guy or girl on the bus. You could meet your “beshert”, the person you are destined to marry,  that way.
  14. In some religious neighborhoods in Israel, there are “kosher buses”.  A kosher bus has been designated and approved by the religious Jewish community – men and women sit separately according to certain Jewish laws (women sit at the back). If you cannot accept this, don’t use these buses.
  15. If you are using a “kosher bus” or traveling from one religious community to another, please dress modestly.  No mini-skirts, short pants, sleeveless, backless or low necklines.  It has happened that people have been removed from a kosher bus as they were not dressed appropriately.  You do not want to subject yourself to that type of embarrassment and an emotionally volatile situation.
  16. Other than actually wearing clothes, there is no dress code on a regular bus.
  17. The newer buses in Israel are wheel-chair friendly.  If you, ‘chas ve chalilah’, are in a wheelchair, you will need to enter the bus via the rear door. The bus driver is obligated to assist you.
  18. Just because the buses in Israel  are painted green does not mean that they are eco-friendly and have low carbon emissions. It’s an Israbluff!
  19. Watch out for strollers, shopping carts and parcels on the floor.  Live poultry is not allowed!
  20. Some buses have WiFi [and now USB’s]. What a country!

EfoBus and Moovit are two useful apps that will tell you, via GPS, how many minutes away your next bus is.  Great, if you run fast enough you’ll still have time to go to Coffix for a 5 shekel cuppa-Joe and be back in time to catch your bus.

Now that you understand how it all works and Israeli bus etiquette, there is no reason for you not to sit back, use and enjoy the well designed Israeli bus service.

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  1. is the driver permitted to drive with the door open?

    if something flys out of the door, can he curse the owner for demanding an apology that he had to get off and retrieve it 1/4 mile down the road?

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